Part 1: Arriving in an unknown village
A local train passes by on it´s way south. Through the windows I can see some passengers, maybe returning from granny´s birthday, maybe about to visit a lover or possibly just heading home to get prepared for the coming week. In front of the hotel a gang of well dressed kids are teasing each other like a bunch of kittens, running around and jumping on each other. A black and white cat crosses the tracks and the wind enters the hotel room through the open balcony door. It is autumn, it is sunday afternoon and the sky half cloudy. It might rain soon. This is Vinderup, a small Danish village, that I don´t know much about yet.
I have returned in Denmark to continue the Yellow Raincoat mission and the Urban Story Hunting project, that started two years ago. We have made also the first part with Marije in Gullestrup, a so called ghetto in Herning. The plan is simple. We two yellow story hunters appear in our yellow raincoats with an open mind to meet all the possible people that wish to talk to us. And even the ones who don´t. Our aim during these three weeks is to hear stories about the local life and try to understand what kind of narratives are hidden and shared in this village.
I arrive in Denmark on Friday, after two days of traveling from Finland. My journey starts in Helsinki, where from I drive to Turku to catch the ferry to Stockholm. The wavy boat trip is followed by a long drive through Sweden. The highway from Stockholm leads me to Göteborg. Swedish highways seem to be the safest place on planet earth. People kindly follow the speed limits and the speed control cameras are pointed out with big signs. ”Dear friend, slow down, if you don´t wish to pay!” The traffic flows on the road like a big peaceful river.
After the second ferry trip and a rainy nighttime drive through North Jylland I finally arrive in Vinderup. In the hotel, where we are staying there is a party that evening. A local band is playing some good old hits and the folks is dancing like a group of wild teenagers. Danish ladies in their nice dresses and short haircuts follow the steps of their gray haired partners and everyone seems to enjoy their time. The big room is full of cosy elegance, beating rhythms and movement. We stand by the door admiring this never stopping human soup made of shiny dance shoes, smiling faces and a hint of a smell of Gamle Dansk, the famous Danish snaps. Someone gives us a quick look: Are these the strangers in their yellow raincoats? The two unknown girls in the front page of the local newspaper?
The story hunting project begins immediately. The first story appears, when a man sits down in our table with a big pint of beer and with his lifestory. It is told in a very strong Jysk accent, and I can almost understand what it is all about. He was born in here, he inherited the land and a farm from his parents. In the story there is a wife, a family and children. The kids grow up and move out in other parts of Denmark. The farm is closed and the man is offered a job from the Danish Crown, a Slaughterhouse in Herning. We hear that there can be 60 pigs in the production line at a time. 14 are slaughtered every minute. The blood runs out, the meat is cut, packed in packages and sent to China. Danes do eat a lot of pork, but obviously they share big part of the production with the global market.
The life story has a sad twist. The man loses his wife before turning 50. She falls on the kitchen floor and never gets up again. A blink and she is gone. We wish him good luck in his life and good night.
In the hotel we meet our neighbor, who found his true home in Nepal. The real life for him is there in the east where silence and peace are. There trains can run late, the meetings can be cancelled without beforehand announcement, kids hold hands instead of phones and nobody needs to rush or hurry anywhere. The Buddha doesn´t want to come to Denmark, he says. It is too hasty, too stressed and too busy here. People would not have time to pay attention to a random enlightened presence. But Nepal is there and always welcoming to return. We are free to live our lives as we wish, and find our homes in many different places.
I fall asleep in my room feeling, that the month will be an intense one. I am like a little North European airport, giving permission for all the stories and experiences to land. Welcome flying elements! Welcome all kind of people. I am a pair of two ears, and would love to know who you are and share some experiences and stories of life with you!
During my long drive I have thought about the project and about myself. What on earth makes a person pack her bags, leave home and travel to a small Danish village just to hear stories and dive in the unknown? The answer is in the question. The stories. The stories we tell about ourselves, about our communities and about the others are the most significant ingredients of a culture. Peoples stories are spiderwebs, connecting us to the communities, to our loved ones and to our own great story. And already when the first story is shared, the unknown starts to reveal itself.